Avid scourers of the 50/50 website have probably at some point noticed the Frank O’Hara quote toward the bottom of our homepage: Each time my heart is broken, it makes me feel more adventurous.
I was not the first of the lonely-hearts club to seek solace in Mr. O’Hara. Rilo Kiley’s Jenny Lewis named an entire album More Adventurous after his words. Surely she and I are not alone in our ability to stare deeply into his poetry, averting our eyes, inspired. And stare deep I have – his poem is on the wall of my shower and I read it twice a month, sometimes taking it in as a whole, other times just grabbing snippets as my eyes careen over the page while I massage conditioner into my hair.
The broken hearted are not merely subjected to fragments of their heart because of a breakup. Sometimes there’s more than that. Sometimes, your love of 50+ years passes away suddenly, and you’re not sure which way is up. This happened to a friend of mine last week. As funny as Louie CK is when he mentions the best outcome of a relationship is that one of you dies at the end, it’s not all that hilarious in person. Unshakably sad, really.
It’s hard. I’m adept at giving advice for breakups, rah-rah-rah-ing a change of scene and a time to see the world as a place of curiosity and wonder through new eyes. I don’t feel adequately prepared for much outside of hugs when it comes to this, though. I wish my mom had been with me. When I told her about the not knowing which way was up, she said, as any wise scuba diver would, “Well, you have to look for the bubbles.”
Of course, the irony of the situation is that it’s not even my place to give advice in this moment. As a friend pointed out, all that can really be done is to show up, to be there, to listen, and to give a hug from a place of empathy and not from a place of “dear gosh, feel better now!” Grief when we lose someone we love – in breakup or in leaving life – is best left experienced, instead of yanked away, unfortunately.
Though I’ve learned not nearly enough in the past 31 years, I’ve learned this: Sometimes, you just have to get used to that empty space. Be it because a friend says “I can’t do this anymore” or a lover’s choice made without their consent, our response winds up the same. Acceptance with fond remembrance. A small but significant prayer for peace, both for them and for yourself as well.
I can only hope that the breaking of the hearts I’ve witnessed this week result in adventure of the best kind. And yes, in finding those bubbles, too.